Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia, Pennsylvania

deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. He was saved only after his older cousin pulled him from the mouth of the hole before he could plunge to his probable death. The incident brought national attention to Centralia as an investigatory group – including a state representative, a state senator, and a mine safety director – was coincidentally on a walking tour of Domboski's neighborhood at the time of his incident.

In 1984, Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and moved to the nearby communities of Mount Carmel and Ashland. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from state officials.

In 1992, Pennsylvania claimed eminent domain on all properties in the borough, condemning all the buildings within. A subsequent legal effort by residents to have the decision reversed failed. In 2002, the United States Postal Service revoked Centralia's ZIP code, 17927.


-A handful of occupied homes remain in Centralia. Most of the buildings have been razed, and at a casual glance the area now appears to be a meadow with several paved streets through it. Some areas are being filled with new-growth forest. Most of Centralia's roads and sidewalks are overgrown with brush, although some areas appear to be mowed. [ [http://terraserver-usa.com/usgsentry.aspx?T=1&S=10&Z=18&X=1934&Y=22589&W=3 TerraServer aerial image of the town, taken in April 1999] ] The remaining church in the borough holds weekly Saturday night services, and the borough's four cemeteries are still well-maintained. Centralia's cemeteries now have a far greater population than the town, including one on the hilltop that has smoke rising around and out of it.

The only indications of the fire, which underlies some 400 acres (1.6 km²), spreading along four fronts, are low round metal steam vents in the south of the borough, and several signs warning of underground fire, unstable ground, and carbon monoxide. Additional smoke and steam can be seen coming from an abandoned portion of Pennsylvania Route 61, the area just behind the hilltop cemetery, and various other cracks in the ground scattered about the area. Route 61 was repaired several times until its final closing. The current route was a detour around the damaged portion during the repairs and became a permanent route in the mid-1990s, thus abandonment occurred to the old route with mounds of dirt being placed at both ends of the former route, effectively blocking the road. Pedestrian traffic is still possible due to a small opening about two feet wide at the north side of the road, but this is very muddy and not accessible to the disabled. The underground fire is still burning and will continue to do so for the indefinite future. There are no current plans to extinguish the fire, which is consuming an eight-mile seam containing enough coal to fuel it for 250 years.

One of the few remaining houses was notable for the five chimney-like support buttresses along each of two opposite sides of the house, where the house was previously supported by a row of adjacent buildings before they were demolished. This home was demolished in September 2007. Another house with similar buttresses is visible from the northern side of the cemetery, just north of the burning, partially subsumed hillside. [cite web |url=http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/ghosttown.htm |title=A modern day Ghost Town, Centralia Pennsylvania |accessdate=2007-10-10]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania did not renew the relocation contract at the end of 2005, and the fate of the remaining residents is uncertain. ["Reading Eagle", January 3 2006]

It is expected that many former residents will return in 2016 to open a time capsule buried in 1966 next to the veterans' memorial.

Mineral rights

Several current and former Centralia residents believe the state's eminent domain claim was a ploy to gain the mineral rights to the anthracite coal beneath the borough. Residents estimate its value to be in the billions of dollars, although the exact amount of coal is not known. Commonwealth officials have stated that Pennsylvania does not own the mineral rights and has no interest in acquiring them, and no further mining has been done in the area.


Centralia is located at coor dms|40|48|12|N|76|20|30|W|city (40.803291, -76.341741).GR|1 According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²), all land.


As of the 2000 census,GR|2 there were 21 people, 10 households, and 7 families residing in the borough. As of March 2004, there were eighteen people residing in nine dwellings. The population density was 87.5 people per square mile (33.8/km²). There were sixteen housing units at an average density of 66.7 people per square mile (25.7/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 100% white.

There were ten households out of which one (10%) had children under the age of 18 living with them, five (50%) were married couples living together, one had a single female householder, and three (30%) were non-families. Three of the households were made up of individuals and one had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10, and the average family size was 2.57.

In the borough the population was spread out with one (5%) resident under the age of 18, one from 18 to 24, four (19%) from 25 to 44, seven (33%) from 45 to 64, and eight (38%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 62 years. There were ten females and eleven males with one male under the age of 18.

The median income for a household in the borough was $23,750, and the median income for a family was $28,750. The per capita income for the borough was $16,083. None of the population is below the poverty line.


Though it originally fielded its own two-man department (part-time officers) during the latter part of the twentieth century, Centralia Borough is now patrolled by the Pennsylvania State Police–Bloomsburg Station.

In the media


*Appalachian Trail, "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, describes a visit to the town.
* Jennifer Finney Boylan's novel "The Planets" (written under the name James Boylan) and its sequel "The Constellations" are both set in Centralia.
*Centralia is the hometown of the main character in "Dirty Blonde" by Lisa Scottoline.
*In the 2003 book "Bubbles Ablaze" by Sarah Strohmeyer, Centralia is the inspiration for the fictional town of Limbo, Pennsylvania.
*In March 1991, Centralia was the subject of an article ("Don't Go There") in "National Lampoon" magazine.
*The main character in Joyce Carol Oates' "The Tattooed Girl", Alma Busch, is from Centralia.
*The town of Centralia was featured in the "Engineering Disasters #7" of "Modern Marvels" on the History channel.


*The town and its few remaining residents are the focus of Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland's 2007 feature-length documentary "The Town That Was". [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0961209/ IMDB - "The Town That Was"] ]
*The town is the inspiration for the 1991 cult film "Nothing But Trouble", written by Dan Aykroyd.
*In the film "Silent Hill", the town of Silent Hill has been abandoned due to a prolonged mine fire, which director Christophe Gans says was inspired by Centralia.Fact|date=May 2008 Aspects of this are shown throughout the movie, such as characters wandering through the misty version of Silent Hill wearing mining gear.


*UK band Spy Versus Spy named a track on their "Little Lights" album "Waiting For Centralia To Sink".


*The town is included in a short documentary on the "Broken Saints" web comic DVD set.


*The Squonk Opera wrote and performed a musical entitled "Inferno" (working and debut title of "Burn"), re-interpreting Dante Alighieri's "Inferno" as a trip into Centralia.
*Centralia is documented in photographs and oral histories in "Slow Burn: A Photodocument of Centralia, Pennsylvania" by Renee Jacobs (University of Pennsylvania Press/1986)


See also

*Burning Mountain
*Byrnesville, Pennsylvania


Further reading

*Zasky, Jason. [http://www.failuremag.com/arch_science_centralia_unforgettable_fire.html "The Unforgettable Fire"] in "Failure Magazine", January 2001
*DeKok, David. "Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire", iUniverse.com, ISBN 0-595-09270-5
*Moran, Mark. "Weird U.S.", Barnes & Noble, ISBN 0-7607-5043-2
*Kroll-Smith, J. Stephen, and Couch, Stephen. "The Real Disaster Is Above Ground: A Mine Fire and Social Conflict",Univ Pr of Kentucky, January 1990, ISBN-10: 0-8131-1667-8, ISBN-13: 978-0813116679
*Quigley, Joan. "The Day the Earth Caved in: An American Mining Tragedy", Random House, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-6180-8

External links

* [http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/PACENmine.html Centralia Mine Fire - Town Atop a Burning Coal Mine]
* [http://www.thetownthatwas.com/ The Town That Was: Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland's Documentary Film about Centralia, PA]
* [http://www.oddthingsiveseen.com/2007/07/centralia-pa.html O.T.I.S.: Odd Things I've Seen]
* [http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia.htm Offroaders.com Centralia photo album]
* [http://www.u-town.com/centralia/index3.htm History of the Centralia Project]
* [http://www.pahighways.com/features/centralia.html Centralia Mine Fire]
* [http://www.centraliaminefire.com/ Centralia Mine Fire]

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